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2021 OpenHours

May & June: No OpenHours

April 19: Law and Environmental Monitoring

In this OpenHour we had a panelist dialogue about law and environmental monitoring! This is Public Lab's second panel discussion on this topic. In this recording you will hear about national environmental law case studies, learn how to determine if legal advocacy is a route for your community to take regarding environmental justice concerns, and her questions shared by the audience. Are you interested in environmental law as a professional career? If so, we also encourage you to view this recording. We were joined by the following guest speakers:

  • Kristen Schlemmer, Legal Director at Bayou City Waterkeeper, Houston, TX. Working with community members, technical experts, and non-profit partners, Kristen uses her legal experience to advance water, climate, and infrastructure justice across the greater Houston area.
  • David Page, Attorney/Member of Environmental Energy & Natural Resources Advocates (EENR Advocates), Tulsa, OK. David has practiced environmental law for 40 years working across business, industry, and civil litigation with an environmental litigation emphasis.
  • Amy Johnson, Private Attorney based in Oregon with history in environmental justice. Amy is the lead on San Antonio Bay Estuarine Waterkeeper v. Formosa Plastics Corp. This is the largest citizen suit under the Clean Water Act in U.S. history.
  • Chris Nidel, Private Attorney at Nidel & Nace Law, P.L.L.C., Washington, DC. Nidel combines a top-tier engineering and science background with a passion for human health, protecting life, and preserving justice in the face of environmental and other threats including dangerous drugs and other products. He is currently a Public Lab Legal Fellow working with the Val Verde Air Quality Monitoring Program team.

Resources shared: Stay tuned!

March 8: (Soil!) Stories from the Underground

In this OpenHour we discussed how to get started with learning and finding resources about soil contamination in our communities. We shared our collective learning moments, some personal stories, and some upcoming events to continue our learning. Are you hoping to meet others on how to take action through community-led science and inquiry? PS: You don't have to have it all figured out just yet! Watch this recording.

This event might interest you if any of these questions spark your curiosity:

  • Are you interested in investigating soil where you live?
  • How did you get interested in soil quality and contamination?
  • What educational resources have you used or have on hand to share with others?
  • What are you still hoping to learn about soil contamination?

Resources shared:

Below are additional resources shared by the team at Citizen Science Community Resources (CSCR)
Thank you!

  • New York DEC 6 NYCRR part 375 - Deals with environmental remediation programs for hazardous waste sites, specifically the tables at subpart 375-6.8 which deal with the soil cleanup objectives for various land uses (the SCOs are meant to serve as cutoffs for levels of contamination at brownfield or superfund sites that warrant further investigation to be remediated but are a good starting point for understanding what levels of pollutants in your soil are concerning).

  • Cornell University's Waste Management Institute - Part of the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, website has excellent resources section including fact sheets concerning soil contamination and testing as well as composting and community waste management.

  • CDC's Agency for Toxic Substances and Disease Registry (ATSDR) - The toxicological profiles section has information sheets on every soil contaminant you could ever imagine, characterizing the toxicology and adverse health effects information for each toxic substance. Very detailed and heavy but probably the most accurate reference that is freely accessible online!

  • EPA's Regional Screening Levels (RSLs) tables - like the NYS SCOs deals mainly with superfund/brownfield sites but has lots of great information concerning risk assessment for soil contamination and other pollution. Very technical.

February 8: Undermined: Voices from the Frontlines of Frac Sand Mining

The perils of fracking are well documented, but the impacts from mining frac sand are less widely known. In this OpenHour, we spoke with the people fighting for clean air and water, fertile farmland, & sustainable livelihoods in fenceline communities from across the midwest. Fracking is an extractive technology that has spread across massive landscapes and unzoned, small towns in the USA as industry has purchased up land rights to conduct operations. Mining for silica sand, use of chemicals, and local water all are pumped into the ground to release small pockets of oil & gas. We heard directly from Wisconsin-based community members who have been bringing their communities together to unite in the struggles for healthy homes and  justice amidst broken promises from frac sand companies. Guest speakers include: Patricia Popple, Dwight Swenson, Ken Schmidt, plus Ted Auch and Shannon Smith from FracTracker Alliance.

Our accompanying audio story, Undermined, inspired this event. The audio story is presented by Public Lab and FracTracker Alliance with support from Save the Hills Alliance. Listen here:

Resources shared:

January 11: Solar Balloons

We held a conversation about community mapping tools and movements seeking alternatives to natural gas: solar balloons! Whether the attendees were new to this type of flight or an experienced  builder, a global community joined this virtual discussion. Our guest speakers included Sasha Engelman and Joaquín Ezcurra from the Aerocene community. There was a lively question and answer session covering beginner flying tips, materials, application of use/permit considerations, and technical questions -- plus plenty of resources shared. During this OpenHour we looked at what solar balloons are, how solar balloon design has advanced, and discussed where they're going in the near future. Bring your curiosity and learn tricks for building and flying these balloons by watching the recording! Read more on the website here:

Resources shared:

Non-solar; i.e. kites and helilum balloons


Mentioned collaborations: Débora Swistun is Sasha's collaborator at UNDAV She is working closely with Sasha and Joaquín on the Aerocene air-sensing project in Villa Inflammable


Two photogrammetric photo processing softwares Note: These softwares do the same as MapKnitter though typically can handle more photos with higher resolution, producing higher resolution spatial data

For weather planning/wind to fly your balloons

December 9: Take Back Your Air! Using the Bucket Air Quality Monitor

We joined South Durban Community Environmental Alliance (SDCEA) and groundWork South Africa in a discussion to learn about 25 years of successful organizing and air quality advocacy using the DIY air monitoring tool, the Bucket, in South Africa. We discussed the history of the Bucket, its use as a campaign tool, and success stories from South Durban. During this OpenHour we also previewed the updated Bucket toolkit and shared resources for communities looking to do their own air quality monitoring.

Resources shared:

November 2020 - Rescheduled

October 5: Applying Aerial Imagery and Community Mapping - Lessons from the Land Loss Lookout Project

Community organizers, HealthyGulf, and Cartoscope came together to assess land loss concerns on the Louisiana Gulf Coast. Inspired by Public Lab's MapMill, the Land Loss Lookout project began in 2015-2016 to help examine land loss concerns and fragmented marsh ecosystems in Louisiana and bring broader awareness to local coastal communities for future restoration. This project brought together individuals and entities to collaborate and use the power of observation, crowdsourced data analysis, community mapping, and publicly available aerial imagery from federal databases like EarthExplorer and Cartoscope. Guest speakers include: Sara Wylie, Scott Eustis, and Sophie Spatharioti.

September 21: Construcción del sensor de conductividad Coqui

Tercera Hora Abierta en la que guiaremos a las participantes en la construcción del Coqui, un sensor de conductividad sonoro para la iniciación a la investigación ambiental. Una herramienta didáctica a medio camino entre la ciencia vecinal y la música electrónica

September 14: Celebrating Summer of Code 2020

In this OpenHour call, we joined the Public Lab's web and coding community in celebrating the great work of these coders during their May-August engagement:

Read more about 2020 Summer of Code and Outreachy here: Are you interested in getting involved with the Web & Coding Community at Public Lab? Learn more at

August 17: Metales pesados en Murcia, España

Segunda sesión de la Hora Abierta en la que contamos con la presencia de integrantes de la Plataforma Beal contra la contaminación por metales pesados en la región de Murcia y en concreto en dos colegios del pueblo de La Unión.

August 3: Understanding Existing Environmental Data

In this OpenHour, we discussed data sources, how people use these resources, and gaps and vulnerabilities in existing data. We can use existing environmental data to examine everything from pollution, weather, maps, and a broad range of environmental factors. There are many data resources from institutions, the government, and independent sources such as Weather Underground. Community groups have used databases such as the Environmental Protection Agency’s TRI (Toxics Release Inventory), and ECHO (Enforcement and Compliance History Online) to hold industries accountable, develop resources around exposure and human health, and advocate when new permits are proposed for industry expansion. Tools such as the EPA’s EJSCREEN can support people to investigate questions focused on pollution exposure and its relation to demographics. These are just a few existing resources.

Resources shared:

July 6: Public Lab Hora Abierta

The first of a series focusing on the Spanish-speaking environmental investigation community with partner organization IMVEC who has been developing JAM!! The Jornadas de Autodefensa Medioambiental

La primera de una serie especial de tres días centrada en la comunidad hispano hablante de investigación medioambiental con la organización asociada IMVEC que ha estado desarrollando las JAM!! The Jornadas de Autodefensa Medioambiental

June 8: Environmental Storytelling

When you're facing environmental concerns in your community, how do you share that story with others? How do you help others understand why these things are important and why they should care?

May 4: Live Build with Public Lab: Mini Kites!

In this special live build session, our education manager walked through how to build fun and easy-to-construct mini Rokkaku kites using household materials. Get the materials list and templates to build your own here.

April 6: Law and environmental monitoring

In this OpenHour call, we discussed recent progress in using law as it related to environmental monitoring.

March 2: Particulate Matter Monitoring

In this OpenHour discussion, we covered some recent updates on particulate matter monitoring, advancements in sensor technology, and reasons why community groups might choose one monitoring method over another, given their interests and goals.

Resources Shared:

February 3: Education

This month, we heard from educators who shared their experiences using Public Lab's community science methods in the classroom. We explored how they develop, pilot, and refine community science programming in classrooms in New Orleans and how they worked to build connections between students and local environmental issues. We also shared more about our upcoming classroom community science workshop and Public Lab’s educational programs.

2019 OpenHours

November 12: Monitoring Oil in Water

We were joined by Public Lab's Oil and Gas Water Fellowship Trio and other members of the Public Lab community to discuss issues around collecting information about water quality and relating this to oil and gas industry impacts.

Make Month!

In October, we had several open calls where we will be walking through the assembly and use of some Public Lab kits live over video. See more about our project on our MAKE Wiki

October 3: Build a Community Microscope Using a webcam and a few pieces of hardware, make a DIY microscope that will allow you to get a closer look at your environment!

October 5: BabyLegs Trawl Learn how to make a DIY trawl so that you can collect samples from your local waterways! Look for microplastics, algae, organisms and more!

October 9: It's two-for-one! We'll be demonstrating the Coqui (a DIY conductivity sensor), and a DIY particulate sensor for studying air quality.

October 28: We'll be available to discuss all of our kits, take questions about open source hardware, ways to get involved with environmental monitoring where you live, and ways that being part of the Public Lab community can help connect you with resources and support.

September 3: Outreachy and Google Summer of Code 2019 Presentations

Students and fellows participating in the 2019 Outreachy and Google Summer of Code program at Public Lab will presented their summer's work. Students offered 5-min presentations about their projects upgrading and improving,, and Image Sequencer, and more.

August 5: Odors

In this OpenHour we discussed odors, joined by Dr. Shelly Miller, contributor to our recent issue of the "Community Science Forum" exploring odor logging. We also discussed how to describe and monitor smells, where to report them, technology for monitoring and reporting, and heard from people in impacted communities.

July 15: Baby Legs

In this OpenHour we talk with Dr. Max Liboiron about BabyLegs: learn how to assemble and troubleshoot your own DIY marine trawl, and talk about how to use it to learn about different kinds of pollution. We're currently crowdfunding for BabyLegs over on Kickstarter, click here to learn more about that campaign.

June 3: Environmental Education

Environmental education is a process that allows people to explore environmental issues, engage in problem solving, and take action to improve the environment. Through experiential learning, participants develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues and have the skills to make informed and responsible decisions. At Public Lab, we’re working to expand our network of formal and non-formal educators and create a space for collaboration and discussion.

This month, we invite environmental educators to chat about:

  • Developing curricula around field work
  • Building connections between students and local environmental issues
  • Creating space for student-led inquiry
  • using Public Lab tools in an educational setting

May 6: Launching Summer of Code

April 1: Soil Testing

Soil testing through professional labs can be expensive. While there are more affordable options such as XRF and other field test kits, most are still out of community’s price range or aren’t widely available. DIY and open source soil testing methods and technology need further development.

We discuss low cost soil testing, contaminants, and various DIY approaches to analyzing soils.

March 4: Diffusion tubes test air quality in the UK

Presenter: Louise Francis from &

Louise Francis from Mapping for Change will share with us the chemistry of the 70's style analog tubes that communities are installing to document air quality impacts from traffic in London. She will also explain how they are installed, what kind of lab analysis is required after what period of time, and how the results have affected environmental governance -- exciting wins! Here's some background reading about the project:

February 4: Community Science Disaster Response Toolkit

On Feb 22-24 we will gather in Galveston to work on community-led preparation for environmental disasters: what to do in advance, how to respond as an event unfolds, and what to do to help advocate for cleanup, recovery and remediation in the weeks, months and years after. Whether you can make it to Galveston or not, if you care about these topics, this OpenHour is for You!

Over summer '18, we put together these principles for community-led crisis response. Now we're moving towards identifying tools and methods that can be used to gather data about environmental impact: what can your community prepare for? Are there things you should have in your disaster kit now? What kinds of events can we anticipate? For those with previous experiences, what would you make sure do (or do differently) in the future? Here are some question prompts:

  • What are best practices in terms of health and safety in flood and storm events (particularly relating exposure to waterborne contaminants during and after)?
  • What kind of real-time data is meaningful to collect? What can wait? What are the most important data collection tools to have on hand (cameras, sensors, chemical tests, etc).
  • In terms of remediation/recovery, how do you identify areas for further attention/research?
  • If you plan to pursue legal / regulatory enforcement with your findings, are there specific guidelines to be aware of when it comes to documentation, chain of custody, data storage, etc?

January 7: Lead

Lead is known toxin. There are no safe levels of lead for humans; any amount is a bad amount. Yet lead is a heavy metal that is common in our everyday environment. Historically it has been used in paints, pipes, and in gasoline. In this OpenHour, we will spend time exploring lead detection and monitoring, and the new Lead Data Initiative, a multi-stakeholder effort addressing environmental lead exposure and lead poisoning prevention organized by Public Lab Fellow Read Holman.

2018 OpenHours

December 3: Usability Feedback for

This fall and winter, we've embarked on a set of projects to improve the usability and user interface design of Have you gotten stuck or lost while browsing people's work on Public Lab, or been frustrated or confused trying to find or do things? Then we need your constructive input to make improvements.

Our growing community of code contributors -- many of whom are making their first contributions to open source -- are looking to improve things, and would love to hear some of your experiences and ideas. We're looking for both general impressions and specific issues -- please show up ready to pitch in and help make Public Lab a better place.

Background: through projects supported by the DIAL Open Source Center, the Digital Impact Alliance, and the 11th Hour Project, we are looking to make more accessible and easier to use, with a focus on supporting people looking to engage on environmental issues. We're looking at everything from a smooth log-in sequence to the way our geographic features support regional organizing, to the layout and information design of our topic pages, and more.

November 5: Technology and process in working with Environmental Justice and environmental health impacted communities

In this OpenHour we were be joined by:

  • Vanessa Gray is Anishinaabe kwe from Aamjiwnaang First Nation, located in Canada's Chemical Valley. As an organizer with ASAP, Aamjiwnaang and Sarnia Against Pipelines, she works with community members to bring awareness to the health issues resulting from her reserve's toxic surroundings.
  • Nick Shapiro, PhD: Public Lab Open Air Fellow currently based at the Technoscience Research Unit, and formerly a Matter, Materials and Culture Fellow at the Science History Institute.
  • Jackie Creedon Director at Community Science Citizen Resource -- celebrating her recent community win to shut down Tonawanda Coke.
  • Barbara Weckesser of Cherokee Concerned Citizens of Pascagoula Mississippi whose efforts were recently featured in the post "The fight to get out of Pascagoula"
  • and others

Notes and resources shared:

October 1: Google Code In

In this call we take the opportunity to meet together on video, say hello, introduce ourselves, and build camaraderie as we head into this busy period of asynchronous collaboration. This OpenHour was not recorded


September 10: Using the new Community Microscope

The Community Microscope is shipping! This OpenHour we will spend time working through some of the first steps to get started with the microscope-- from preparing and focusing on your first slides to adjusting your setup for different kinds of viewing. We'll also explore the ways that images and video of very small things can be used in environmental advocacy, and discuss ways that tools, such as open-source microscopes, can be used to support this work.

August 6: Summer of Code Projects

As the summer coding season comes to a close, we wanted to take time to look over what has been accomplished, and talk about next steps for coding on Public Lab. First-time and veteran contributors alike, have worked to support summer of code students to bring exciting new features to In just two months, students developed systems allowing people to reply to Public Lab posts by email, to login to Public Lab through google and social media accounts, to explore environmental data and projects on an interactive map and more.

July 9: Reflections on two years of our Code of Conduct

The Public Lab Code of Conduct is two years old this month! In this OpenHour, we review the document, talk about what has gone well, and what might need to be added or adjusted to protect the safe spaces of Public Lab!

Resources shared: -

May 7: Events

In this OpenHour we hear from people who organize many different kinds of events such as builds, SERCs, community meetings and others. Explore different event styles and learn how to structure for fun, inclusive, successful, and productive events!

Links Shared:

April 1: Marine Plastics

In this OpenHour we talk about plastics in the ocean: the overall problem, plastic pollution sources and accumulation zones, ways of monitoring, and efforts to address this global marine issue. We hear from:

  • Skye Moret - a strategist and data visualizer with Woods Hole working on what marine plastics look like in the open ocean.
  • Barent Roth - presenting for, is an Sustainable Designer/Eeducator/Activist with Parsons.

Notes shared:

February 5: Developing Community Kits with Public Lab

Public Lab has launched an initiative to support people in the development of new community kits. In this OpenHour, we discuss what goes into designing, producing and distributing, tools for environmental research.

Resources shared:

January 8: Exploratory hydrogen sulfide monitoring methods

Hydrogen Sulfide (H2S) is a harmful gas that is released from sources such as oil and gas wells, large animal farms (CAFOs), and in processes such as pulp milling. Monitoring methods include canister sampling, electronic and chemical sensor monitoring, and more. In this OpenHour we discuss two exploratory methods for monitoring H2S, the photographic paper method and the copper tarnishing method.

Notes from the call:

2017 OpenHours

December 4: Data Loggers for Environmental Monitoring

There are a lot of options available now when it comes to choosing a data logger for your environmental sensing project - The Riffle, the Mayfly, Mini Pearl, Nano and more! How are they different, or similar? How do you know which one to choose for your project? Where are the conversations hosted about these projects? What opportunities for cooperation are there for the loggers now, or in the future?

Links shared:

November 13: Barnraising Sessions Continued

Links shared:

October 2: Collaborations in disaster response between online and on the ground groups

In recent months there has been an incredible surge of extreme disaster events with devastating hurricanes, earthquakes, and floods. The landscape of on-the-ground response and the remote contributions has grown and adapted quickly. There are key organizing moments in between these modes that are delicate. Questions and learning moments have come up quickly about who sets the projects to be tackled, what project designs have been effective, and timing on addressing different aspects of the response. In this OpenHour we discuss these issues and try to identify any patterns or anti-patterns in this type of dynamic disaster response.

Notes Shared:

September 11: Summer of Code 2017

This month's Open Hour was on Monday, September 11th (due to the US Labor Day Holiday). We celebrated the great work of seven students (@lillian_korinek, @shelbyfire, @ryzokuken, @stella, @ccpandhare, @mridulnagpal, @Ashan) during 2017's Google Summer of Code and Rails Girls Summer of Code, and learned what this progress means for various Public Lab initiatives.


August 7: Problem Identification

Monday, August 7: Problem Identification (1pm EST, 5pm GMT)

In this OpenHour we explore "problem identification." Articulating questions as a group brings out critical local perspectives on issues, and starts us on a path to figuring out how we might explore these issues, together. In this OpenHour we are joined by individuals who bring deep and varied experiences facilitating group problem identification:

  • Paz Bernaldo: Paz leads a prototype project called laboratorio el Sombrero in Chile. The project's final goal is to help fight urban inequality and segregation (their physical and digital layers) by experimenting with open technologies and defining/tackling local problems.
  • Dinorah Cantu-Pedraza: Dino coordinates the GovLab Academy, an online institute aimed at helping government and social innovators take innovative projects from idea to implementation. Under her direction, the Academy has worked with over five hundred innovators from more than 30 countries online and off over the last two years. Thousands more have watched its skill-building videos.
  • Katie Villano Spellman: Katie is one of the leaders of Arctic and Earth SIGNs, a University of Alaska project to facilitate collaboration in climate change research between youth, scientists, educators, elders and community leaders in Alaskan rural and indigenous communities. Research questions are co-identified across multiple generations, knowledge systems, and spatial scales to address a most pressing local climate change concern.

Resources Shared

July 10: Aerial Mapping

Celebrating three years of OpenHour we're revisiting our first OpenHour topic! In this OpenHour we look at how tools and projects have evolved over the years, and we'll talk about how Public Lab's newest iteration of kite and balloon mapping tools (the mini balloon and kites) can make aerial photography easier and even more accessible.

Links Shared

June 5: Facilitation Techniques and Resources

On the front lines of environmental struggles, pressure is high, collaboration is necessary, and plans and decisions need to be made. Good facilitation techniques in meetings and in strategy development can make all the difference. Among other things, good facilitation can help people to stay on topic, be heard, make decisions, and ensure that everyone has a safe space to contribute. In this OpenHour we talking about facilitation techniques and hearing from individuals who employ different styles of facilitation in their efforts.

Speaker Bios: - Maria Frangos: I am a user experience designer engaged in both practice-based work and design research activities. I am committed to open and collaborative processes that promote the creation of freely accessible technologies and knowledge. My work is concerned with facilitating design processes, translating stakeholder needs and transferring / sharing knowledge. I believe that through these efforts, designers can foster trust, while empowering individuals in the co-creation process.

- Max Liboiron: Max directs the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR), a feminist marine science laboratory dedicated to monitoring pollution and decolonizing science.

- Klie Kliebert: Klie is the Operations Manager for Public Lab and has experience in Social Work and group facilitation in various settings. Klie has co-drafted multiple Codes of Conduct and is currently the Safety Officer for GOSH (Gathering for Open Science Hardware). They are also a member of Trans*Visible, an extensive network of transgender, gender nonconforming, and nonbinary trainers/facilitators/space holders across the United States, and were invited to attend the OpenHouse Summit as a leader who is advocating for inclusive uses of open source that serves diverse populations. Klie is dedicated to equitable space-making in tech and throughout the open source movement.

Links shared:

May 1: Art in Environmental Science Advocacy

Often environmental issues are politically charged, hard to understand, and difficult to approach. Art can be a powerful way to open and share a dialogue about environmental issues. Environmental advocacy art has taken many forms: documentaries, visual pieces, spoken and written word, and performance to name a few. All of these tools help us to engage our brains in new ways, and with new people, about the environmental challenges our communities face. In this OpenHour we were joined by a few people who exercise the intersections of Art and Environmental Science in their work:

  • Jason Jones of The Natural History Museum, a mobile and pop-up museum that highlights the socio-political forces that shape nature, and champions bold climate action. Beka and Jason are co-founders of Not An Alternative a collective that works at the intersection of art, activism and critical theory.
  • Catherine D'Ignazio: Assistant Professor of Civic Media and Data Visualization at Emerson College. Catherine's work includes Boston Coastline: Future Past and the Babbling Brook.
  • Matej Vakula is a New York based artist, educator & DIY enthusiast. Co-founder of CLAKULA Art Productions and Founding Director of Open Source Space Administration Institute for Alternative Research, Matej's work explores the impact of culture, technology, location and politics on personal experience, social interrelationships, body, and nature.

Links shared:

April 3: Fundraising for Projects

Projects are exciting, but thinking about fundraising to support them can get challenging! How do you know where to look, what works, and how much you need? This OpenHour we discussed fundraising to support local projects. We spoke about different platforms you can use, strategies that will help you achieve your goals, and ideas on how to budget.

Links shared:
* Ioby: If you're interested in starting an ioby campaign, simply click 'Start a Project' at to get connected with a coach and begin building your campaign. If you have any questions about crowdfunding your project on ioby, feel free to reach out to Ethany Uttech at You can also explore more resources and sign up for free crowdfunding webinars at
* Book: Fundraising for Social Change.
* Partnering with Public Lab on proposals and fiscal sponsorships
* Grant and foundation research resources: Guidestar and Foundation Directory (full resource available at public libraries in many cities)
* Awesome Foundation .

March 6: Water Water Everywhere! A discussion of monitoring strategies and tools

Many would argue that some of the deepest roots of citizen science stems from work in community based water monitoring. In this OpenHour we talked about new water monitoring tools and strategies as well as discussed long standing methods people have used. We were joined by citizen science water monitoring groups, as well as those who have more recently worked on building open source monitoring tools the Riffle and the Mayfly.

Links Shared

February 6: New Year, New Challenges: the shifting landscape of advocacy.

In this event people share and brainstorm about the potential changes and challenges in the environmental field in 2017.

  • what challenges are you thinking about with the new administration?
  • is there anything you are doing, or hear of others doing, to prepare for changes?
  • are there new groups, ideas or resources you're seeing as becoming more important? (for example: new partnerships, new emphasis on local level advocacy etc.)

Links shared:

January 9: Classifying Waste

There are many different types of waste. Individuals, companies and agencies can have different methods for classifying waste types and waste streams. This affects the way we view waste and, as a society, handle it. This OpenHour we discuss how waste such as landfill waste, hazardous waste and household waste is classified, and implications of these classifications.

Here are links we shared during the OpenHour:

2016 Open Hours:

December 5: Environmental monitoring methods recognized by enforcement bodies

While there are many types of methods people can use in environmental monitoring, only some have been approved by various agencies for official data. The EPA has a specific list of methods that can produce data that deemed sufficient for regulatory grounds See Federal Reference Method.

  • What methods are recognized, and by whom?
  • How do methods become recognized or official?
  • Can we work to make new methods recognized?

Resources shared on OpenHour:

See some of the attendee's brief profiles below:

  • Alison Parker ORISE fellow hosted by EPA. Alison recently helped edit the National Advisory Council for Environmental Policy and Technology's advice and recommendations to EPA on citizen science.
  • Brandon Feenstra with the South Coast Air Quality Management District. The SCAQMD has been working to compare the data of new low-cost air monitoring tools to those that are federally recognized. Check out their website here
  • Rachelle Duvall EPA research scientist and co-author of a recent publication on integrating sensor monitoring technologies into current air pollution regulation. 10.5923.j.ajee.20140406-2.02.pdf

November 7: New contributors to open source code

Recently, Public Lab has had a number of people who are coding for the first time making substantial contributions! New tools and ideas such as "First Timers Only" github issues have helped to bring new coders in, but we're looking to learn and share more!

  • What helps to makes new code contribution easy?
  • What have First Time Coders contributed to the codebase?
  • How can we engage non-coders to help on questions such as design interface?
  • How else can we do outreach for contributors?
  • After the first commit, then what?

October 3: Such Activities, Very Replication!

Over the past month, Public Lab built out a whole slate of new features for people to engage on the website by creating and replicating activities. Together, these present a brand new way of working collaboratively at Public Lab.

Whereas before you might have visited a tool page, but wondered how to get involved, now we’re encouraging people to share step-by-step activities for trying out new techniques, testing how well they work, and using them in monitoring. But we're just starting to try this out and we need your input, whether you're new to Public Lab or not!

We’re also happy to welcome organizers Katie Gradowski and Catherine D’Ignazio! Their work as technologists and educators is at the leading edge of the culture of replication and onboarding being cultivated in Public Lab. See their work on the coqui’s “Ladder of Activities” here:

September 6: Google Summer of Code Projects

Over the summer, five students from Google Summer of Code have been working hard on projects to bring new features to These projects include improved profile pages, internationalization of the website, a Question/Answer feature and more! Hear from the students and learn about the new features they are helping to bring to Public Lab!

August 1: Public Comment on Environmental Issues

A Public Comment period is often opened when environmental decisions are being made. Local and federal agencies host Public Comment periods on issues such as environmental impact reports or regulation changes. While anyone can participate in a Public Comment period, how do you know if you're getting your points and interests across? If the issue is something you're passionate about, how to do express your passions in an effective way? Check out this OpenHour on Public Comment!

July 7: Learning about the Barnraising in Val Verde!

This coming weekend, Public Lab will be hosting a Regional Barnraising in Val Verde CA. In getting ready, we'll be talking with people who have participated in previous Barnraisings, what happened at the event, what the major take aways were, and how things have changed since. We'll also be joined by people who are planning to come to Val Verde for the event. We'll also talk about some of the environmental questions people are interested in exploring and gear up for the event.

June 6: Exploring Proof

In this OpenHour we hear from three community researchers and three environmental lawyers on specific case studies with legal applications of community-collected environmental data. Noelle Francois discusses how HeatSeekNYC’s internet-of-things sensor approach to slumlord accountability is faring in NYC’s Municipal Housing Court. Scott Eustis recounts how an oblique kite photo of a conical pile of coal dust met the legal definition of “ongoing pollution” bringing about a $75,000 fine to United Bulk Terminal on the Mississippi River. Jackie Creedon discusses the role of air samples collected with GCMs bucket in what has become the 2nd largest victory ever under the Clean Air Act (Tonawanda Coke). Each of the three lawyers -- Aaron Mango, Chris Nidel, and Edan Rotenberg -- share lessons learned from pursuing environmental cases in both civil and criminal court.

May 2: Public Lab's research culture

Join us for a discussion on quality, navigability, and onboarding to highlight the following points and more:

  • organizing content
  • refereeing content
  • standardizing documentation
  • collaborating rigorously
  • onboarding new researchers

Liz will facilitate this call. We can take notes here:

  • We'll start with a round of intros from people who are in the googleHangout or watching / typing in on chat
  • We'll choose a notetaker
  • We'll go around to give each person time to express a single, concise observation / sticking point they have encountered working in an open, distributed format. Maybe something about where to start, how to continue, find, or bring projects to resolution.
  • ...We may do a second round of short observations! Continue to take notes.
  • Once these experiences are written down, we'll see if there is any clustering. Maybe we have some emerging "problem definitions"
  • Now is a good time to add in points of reference on practices that have been working well either in PL or from anywhere to illuminate our discussion.
  • Well-equipped with this context, we can explore some of the current improvements happening to PL's collaborative infrastructure, and also think about more ideas

Here are some background references to where this conversation has been happening, and some resources that have recently been created:

April 4: Open Access to Environmental Data

Check out this OpenHour on what environmental data is available and accessible for everyone to use! Learn about changes coming to data owned by government and universities, hear from people developing tools to sort data and learn about opening data!

Links shared Groups encouraging collaboration on open data:

Other links shared:

March 7: Soil and Soil Testing

Interested in learning about tools related to soil and sampling? Looking to find out what can be measured in soil? Check it out::

Links shared:

February 1: Landfills: Mapping and Monitoring!

Links shared:

January 28: Live Call on QGIS

Links shared during this event:

January 11: Reflections on the Climate Conference (COP21)

This OpenHour we hear reflections from people who were at COP21. What did we learned? what surprised, rejuvenated, disappointed or inspired those who were there.

EcoFys Reference to "Carbon Bomb" Industrial Projects

2015 OpenHours

December 7th The Oil Testing Kit!

Interested in learning what's been going on with the Public Lab Oil Testing Kit? This OpenHour we talk about the Beta program,, kit development and what's in store for the future of this tool!

November 2: Gearing up for the Barnraising

Coming to the Barnraising?

Tuesday October 20th, Live Call: Calibration and Characterization of DIY ​Instrumentation

Background: ​Those of us who've been interested in building our own ​devices for ​performing environmental measurements have ​struggled with questions like:

  • How might we check to see whether we're actually measuring what we hope we're measuring? (E.g. -- is our air quality sensor really working?)
  • What sorts of equipment / approaches / methods are 'good enough' to answer (or raise) the questions we're hoping to address?
  • What does 'good enough' mean for various audiences (our community; a journalist; a government agency) and purposes (decisions about personal health; triggering an investigation; filing a lawsuit)?

Speaker Bio: Pete Marchetto is a Postdoctoral Research Associate with the​ ​Cornell Soil and Water Lab, and is soon to be an Assistant​ ​Professor in Bioproducts and Biosystems Engineering at the​ ​University of Minnesota. His research revolves around finding​ ​new, better, and less expensive ways of making instrumentation​ ​for those in the organismal​ ​and environmental biological fields, as​ ​well as the earth sciences.​ ​More information and contact information can be found at:​ ​

Thursday October 8th, Live Call

As a follow-up to the September Open Hour "Transparency in Environmental Policy and Science", we are having a small discussion on transparency in environmental policy and science and its surprising application in the Secret Science Reform Act of 2015

Daniel Sarewitz will be joining us, please read his piece in Nature as a preview. Philip Silva, Public Lab organizer, will also be joining us to bring his perspectives on science and politics.

Monday, October 5: Formaldehyde and the Plant Remediation Experiment

Formaldehyde "is the most common and most toxicologically understood indoor air pollutant," it's just about everywhere. But beyond thinking about it, what if there was something we could do about it? A this OpenHour we'll be talking about Public Lab's new Where We Breathe project and discussing how you can build a plant remediation experiment for about $20 - no soldering or microchips needed! The plants that we are going to be experimenting with have been lab-tested by NASA for cleaning air in space stations.

In this call we were joined by :

  • Nick Shapiro Public Lab's Open Air Fellow and lead researcher on Public Lab's "Where We Breathe" indoor air quality monitoring and mitigation project, and
  • Gretchen Gehrke: Data Ambassador with Public Lab and chemistry translator extraordinaire!

Wednesday, September 9: "Transparency in Environmental Policy and Science."

Environmental Science and Policy affects everyone, yet people can find themselves in situations where the language used is unclear, text heavy or full of jargon. In this OpenHour we will explore this issue, and how people tried to address it.

During this OpenHour we were joined by:

  • Mark Meisner, Executive Director of International Environmental Communications Association,
  • Catherine D'Ignazio, a Public Lab organizer who works with MIT Media Lab and Civic Media & Data Visualization Department at Emerson College.

Links people shared during OpenHour

Resources people shared:

Monday, August 3rd, Mapping in the Middle of it!

There are some awesome projects circling around Public Lab that have really taken low cost aerial mapping to some interesting and challenging places. We're joined by:
- Ann Chen Fulbright scholar who, with National Geographic, has been working on mapping pipeline proposals with indigenous communities in Alberta and British Columbia,
- Claudia Martinez Mansell bringing the refugee camps in Lebanon to the public eye through mapping, and
- Laura Chipley who's embarking on a project in August to map mountain top removal sites. Check it out below!:

Monday, July 6: Open Air Projects

Looking for updates on Dust Monitoring Projects? These projects fall under the Public Lab Open Air Initiative! Join us here to learn more about these projects, meet some of the makers and learn how you can get involved!

Links Shared:
Article from Willie Shubert
Speck time:
Link from Jeff:
Public Lab DustDuino Wiki
DustDuino web page
Willie’s Git Hub page on Open dust map
CMU spec repository and for non-commercial use
Albert’s Page on CO
Soap Bubble video
Open Pipe Kit
Bacon Danger

Monday June 1: Public Lab Web Development behind the code

Find yourself wondering how web development in our open source community works? Interested in learning who does this work, how it's done and how to get involved? Meet the people who work so hard behind the code in Public Lab!

Links shared during the call:

Monday May 4: Public Lab's 5 year anniversary party!

Monday, April 6: Learning

On Public Lab's 5th Anniversary, we had a roundtable discussion on peer-to-peer learning. Telling stories of times when we exchanged concepts, skills, and attitudes, we then move on to tackle topics like expertise, jargon, the role of social bonds (online and offline), and the type of resources that support learning. Cindy Regalado, Beryl Thurman, Bronwen Densmore, Chris Fastie, and Ned Horning join us contributing in site and ideas.

Monday, March 2: Engaging in "C" Science

What do people mean when they refer to citizen, civic or community science? Who is it for? How do people collaborate, stay involved, and push towards outcomes? What makes a successful program and what are things to look out for?

In this exciting OpenHour we were joined by:
Julie Vastine: Director of the Alliance for Aquatic Resource Monitoring, based out of Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Founded in 1986, ALLARM provides scientific and programmatic assistance to Pennsylvania and New York communities interested in using science as a tool to investigate stream health.
Jessica Hendricks: Program Manager at Global Community Monitor, an organization that works internationally to train and support communities in the use of environmental monitoring tools to understand the impact of fossil fuel industry pollution on their health and the environment.
Tim Vargo: Manager of Research & Citizen Science at the Urban Ecology Center. The Urban Ecology Center's Citizen Science Program aims to serve as a meaningful bridge between academic research and the community-at-large, enabling collaboration, and creating a more engaged, knowledgeable and ecologically literate citizenry.

Resources shared during the call include:
* Refer to the Citizen Science Association
* Cornell Lab of Ornithology
* for water quality monitoring resources

February 2nd 2015: Lending Libraries

Links and references shared for the event: * *

January 2015: ENERGY!

Interested in oil/fracking/pipelines/pet coke issues? This is the OpenHour for you!

Links shared during OpenHour: *
* *

Chicago Project Pages: *

2014 OpenHours

Monday December 1st at 1:00pm EST: "Public Lab: A year in review and what's coming next."

November 18th, the Water Hackathon in New Orleans

Missed the event? See it here!

Speakers away from the computer were hard to hear so here are some notes from the meeting.

November 3rd at 8:00pm EST: Gearing up for the Barnraising!

October 6: Events and Event Hosting

Missed the event? See it here!

Guest speakers included: * Jen Hudon, Public Lab event extraordinaire!
* Katie Gradowski, Parts and Crafts, kids at events "expert"!
* Danielle Kraus, Propeller event pro!

September 1: Open Topic Session

Missed the event? See it here!

August 4: Thermal Imaging

Missed the event? See it here!

Call guests included: Lela Prashad, Ned Horning and Zenon Tech-Czarny
Links that were shared:

JULY 28: Open Air: air pollutants and air quality monitoring tools

Missed the event? See it here!

Call guests included:

JULY 21: Water Contaminants and Detection

Missed the event? See it here!

Water Contaminants and ways to detect them with guest speakers:

JULY 14: Spectral Analysis

Missed the event? See it here!

Spectral Analysis, How can it be used? And where can the science of spectrometry take us in the future? We will be joined by:

  • Jeff Warren, Public Lab Research Coordinator, who will be discussing spectrometry, and its applications for oil sampling.
  • Amy Soyka who will discuss color theory, and her project to testing dust and water samples from the Latrobe valley following a mine fire!

JULY 7: Near Infrared Photography

Missed the event? See it here!

Near-Infrared Imaging This week on OpenHour we discussed Near-Infrared Imaging and!
Ned Horning and Dorn Cox also joined covering topics of:

  • The science and technology behind NIR,
  • Examples of it in use, and
  • Where this technology could head in the future!

JUNE 30: Aerial Mapping

Missed the event? See it here!

Aerial mapping and new collaborative map developments! Learn about aerial photography and mapknitting. Hear about a new software development and ways use maps to tell stories through text, images, multimedia and annotations. See community case studies that apply these tools to projects, and help shape the future of mapmaking in your community!

During this OpenHour we heard from:

To learn about other types of events, see